Things Fall Apart
How we cite our quotes:
[Ezeani]: “We live in peace with our fellows to honor our great goddess of the earth without whose blessing our crops would not grow. You have committed a great evil [….] Your wife was at fault, but even if you came into your obi and found her lover on top of her, you would still have committed a great evil to beat her…The evil you have done can ruin the whole clan. The earth goddess whom you have insulted may refuse to give us her increase, and we shall all perish.” His tone now changed from anger to command. “You will bring to the shrine of Ani tomorrow one she-goat, one hen, a length of cloth and a hundred cowries.” (4.22)
Ezeani pronounces Okonkwo’s beating of his wife a sin against the goddess and warns that his sin could have drastic consequences, ones that affect the whole clan. He sets Okonkwo’s punishment at an animal sacrifice and payment. The punishment seems strangely small in comparison to the possible consequences of the crime. Overall, it seems that gods require sinners to acknowledge their wrongs.
[Obierika]: “And let me tell you one thing, my friend. If I were you I would have stayed home. What you have done will not please the Earth. It is the kind of action for which the goddess wipes out whole families.” (8.26)
Killing family members and killing clansmen are both considered sins against the earth goddess. However, Ikemefuna was neither Okonkwo’s son by blood nor was he a member of the Umuofia clan. As a result, the community doesn’t force punishment on Okonkwo. However, Obierika, who tends to be wise, thinks that Ikemefuna was Okonkwo’s son – Okonkwo treated the boy like a son, and Ikemefuna though of Okonkwo as his father. Obierika believes that the earth goddess will agree. Is Okonkwo’s subsequently poor luck all because of he doesn’t atone for the sin of killing Ikemefuna?
The medicine man then ordered that there should be no mourning for the dead child. He brought out a sharp razor from the goatskin bag slung from his left shoulder and began to mutilate the child. Then he took it away to bury in the Evil Forest, holding it by the ankle and dragging it on the ground behind him. After such treatment it would think twice before coming again, unless it was one of the stubborn ones who returned, carrying the stamp of their mutilation – a missing finger or perhaps a dark line where the medicine man’s razor had cut them. (9.23)
Unlike in normal circumstances, here it is a sin for a child to be born because that child is a demonic spirit posing as an innocent human baby. Thus, what seems like a sinful ritual – mutilating the corpses of babies – is actually used to prevent further sins in the rebirth of evil.